About 250,000 civil servants in Portugal are on strike, joining Greece and Ireland in dealing with severe austerity measures that are part of European Union bailout deals.
Trade unions say the strike is severely disrupting hospital services and trash collection.
Protesters are upset about severe budget cuts and other reforms that are conditions of a bailout deal from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.
The changes include cuts in pensions and benefits, the abolition of many tax breaks and a higher sales tax, as well as a move to make it easier to fire employees.
The plan, details of which were released Thursday, gives Portugal until 2013 to bring its deficit from nine per cent of gross domestic product to the official euro-zone limit of three per cent, instead of as early as next year.
Portuguese Finance Minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos is shown during a news conference Thursday. Portugal will get IMF loans at rates similar to those granted to Greece and Ireland.Portuguese Finance Minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos is shown during a news conference Thursday. Portugal will get IMF loans at rates similar to those granted to Greece and Ireland. Francisco Seco/Associated Press
European Union negotiator Juergen Kroeger told journalists the plan won’t be pleasant to implement.
“It’s a tough program and necessary for the adjustment needs,” he said. “But we consider it fair: great attention is paid to social fairness and protecting the vulnerable people in society.”
Details of the plan were made public after the right-of-centre opposition, which was consulted during the talks, pledged to back it.
A general election is scheduled for a month’s time; the Socialist government resigned last month after parliament rejected its latest austerity package. It then yielded to pressure from investors to seek a bailout, with the finance minister saying Portugal otherwise would only have the money to roll over debt and fund spending until the end of May.